|If I lit a candle for every weirdo thing|
someone's said to me... well, I'd have
to call the fire department.
So! I'm here to add to the cacophony with my own Cheeky twist on what not to say. Obviously, as with so many things, grief is idiosyncratic, so your mileage may vary. (And yes, these are all things I've really heard, some of them multiple times. I'm not making this nonsense up.)
1. "He's in a better place."
I don't care. Hawaii is also a better place, but I wouldn't want him going there and leaving me behind, either.
And the second is like unto it:
2. "It's comforting to know that he's with Jesus."
Well, he was with Jesus here, too. And it's not that comforting when I'd much rather he be alive and in my house instead of playing laser tag with the angels or whatever he's getting up to these days.
3. "He's still with you."
This one is kind of tricky, because he believed very strongly that our loved ones who have departed are still hovering round. I've never been able to embrace this belief as much as he did. What's more, I'm not sure that I like the idea that he's standing around watching me feel sorry for myself, or even worse, having fun without him. I'm sure this is idea is helpful to some, though, so that's why I call it tricky.
4. "You're so lucky you don't have children."
Let me say first: Yes, part of me is glad I don't have to get kids through the loss of their father. But really, why would you say such a thing? I lived with the grief of infertility for ten years, followed by the sudden loss of my husband before either of us reached 40. Yeah, I FEEL SO LUCKY RIGHT NOW. Let's go to Vegas and see how my luck holds out!
Just, no. Don't say anything if you can't do better than that.
5. "You're free now."
Get. Out. And turn in your humanity card before you go.
6. "Did you guys know he was sick?" or "Was this a surprise?"
If you don't know the answer to this question before you ask, it's probably none of your business. I honestly got asked this so many times that I started telling people that a pulmonary embolism is an acute condition that can happen to anyone at any time, which is not 100% true, but usually gave the questioner reason to ponder his or her own mortality, preferably somewhere I wasn't.
(By the way: yes, being ungracious is part of the grieving process. Also a key part of my personality.)
7. "How are you?" or "How are you, really?"
Okay, y'all. This is so well-intentioned, so it's hard to fuss, but I will anyway. There are a limited amount of people in anyone's circle who can ask this question and expect it to be answered with grace. (And I can tell you that most of mine have already gone there. If you haven't asked this one yet--don't.) Err on the side of caution. If it's not one of your best friends, skip it. They're not going to tell you, or at least won't want to tell you.
Don't worry, I'm not going to leave you hanging. Instead, here's what to say:
1. "Please feel free to text/call/Facebook me."
Now, I don't recommend this willy-nilly. Obviously, there needs to be some sort of consideration of how good of friends you already were--this is not a helpful thing coming from casual acquaintances.
2. "What can I bring you?"
For about five days, my answer was "Peanut M&Ms," but that's partly because my sneaky father kept eating the peanut M&Ms that people brought me.
3. "Can I go to the bank/supermarket/library/etc. for you?"
Yes. Yes, you can.
4. "Do you want to go to (fun thing you guys usually do together)?"
Please, please don't stop asking. One day, the answer will be 'yes' again. Don't give up or be offended if the answer is 'no' for a while. Please.
5. Sharing a favourite memory or something you liked or appreciated about the departed person is always welcome.
Note: this means stories like "most embarrassing moment" or "something horrible he did to me when we are kids" are probably not welcome. I'm pretty easygoing and have a good sense of humour, but if you start to tell me a story like that about Chadwick it will probably end badly. Keep those for your own chuckles. Maybe someday I'll be ready to hear them, but not yet.
6. "I care about you."
Good for all seasons.
I know there are horror stories out there. Let's hear it--what's a really stupid thing (or really smart thing) someone has said to you in a time of crisis?